Flowers here, there and everywhere

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Wednesday, September 2, 2015 4:57 pm EDT

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The Courier

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Howard Jones has been counting the days to the Hancock County Fair. The Findlay man is hoping to win a ribbon or two when he enters this year’s open class flower competition. “It’s getting close,” he said. Jones, who is about to turn 90, is a fair veteran. Last year he won first place for his yellow rose and took a blue ribbon back to Sunrise of Findlay, the assisted living community where he and his wife, Jane, live. The ribbon was displayed in the lobby along with his picture. “He gets a little glint in his eye when you start talking about it (the fair),” said Charlie Stoner, executive director at the senior living community. “He’s getting excited.” Jones has been gardening for close to 70 years, said his daughter, Judy Roettger. Whenever she drives down from her home in Port Clinton, Jones puts her to work planting, trimming weeding and tilling, “whatever needs to be done,” she said. “Judy’s not just his right hand, she’s his right, left, everything,” said Stoner. A native of Hardin County, Jones worked as a purchasing agent for tank refuelers. He and his wife married in 1948 and raised three children in Mount Victory. Roettger said the couple grew vegetables, berries and flowers, and had 20 fruit trees. “Mom had flowers around the house, and she took care of those. He did the vegetables,” said Roettger. “Actually Dad helped her with the flowers, and they both planted the vegetable garden. Then he would weed and take care of it, and she would harvest it and put it up. They did a lot of canning, a lot of freezing.” When the couple later moved to Findlay, Jones took over the flowers because his wife was no longer able. “She lost interest in it, but he’s picked up on it,” said Roettger. “He picked up on it 100 fold,” said Stoner. “It’s not just an interest, it’s a passion.” Jones first bought and planted some rosebushes while living at Primrose Retirement Community. When the couple moved to Sunrise three and a half years ago, the rosebushes came with them. “It was a good sales job,” said Stoner. “It made it tougher to say no because he had them (the rosebushes) with him, and he’d already paid for them. And all he was saying was I’d like to help beautify your community. So how was I going to say no?” Once Jones got started though, he just kept going. “Then it was more up to us to see what we could fit into landscaping. He had a vision, and the vision really was more. But it was a good vision,” Stoner said. Although Jones uses a walker to get around, he still does some of the hands-on work. He also supervises those he can persuade to help out with the gardening chores, including Roettger and several of the staff and employees. “But he’s at the root of it all,” said Stoner. “Nothing happens if he’s not either doing it or supervising it. It’s all his handiwork.” Jones has about 10 plots around the community located on Lake Cascades Parkway. His flower gardens contain dahlias, roses, gladiolus, lilacs, canna, tree lilies and sunflowers, which are now the adopted company flower of Sunrise, said Stoner. There have been times, he said, his dahlias have grown as large as a dinner plate. But the weather this summer has been hard on the plants. “First there was too much rain, then it was too hot,” Roettger said. Jones does have some unusual offerings in his gardens, like a ketchup and mustard miniature rose. Its petals are red on the inside and yellow on the outside. He also has a Pope John Paul rose bush with pure white flowers. “Most whites have a little yellow or a little orange down inside when it opens up,” said Roettger. “This is pure white all the way.” His flowers can be found in vases throughout the retirement community. Jones also tends areas that contain vegetable plants like tomatoes, cucumbers and radishes. There are also 50 strawberry plants, blackberries and cantaloupe. “He worked closely and talked a lot with our dietary coordinator, the head cook. And she said ‘Howard, I’ll use whatever,'” said Stoner. “I mean, she loves to use fresh produce.” For the first time, Jones also planted herbs this year. “He’s justifiably proud of his flowers because more people see them and more people get pleasure from them. But he’s really taken to the vegetables the last couple years, and he’s happy with that, I can tell,” said Stoner. “He’s thinking. He’s doing. He’s staying active, and it’s very, very helpful to him, in addition to the fact he loves it.” Jones spends every day he can outside working with his plants. He’s also been looking at catalogs in preparation for next spring’s offerings. Stoner said they’ve already had discussions about what to plant. “Every now and then I have to explain that the landscape that was designed to fit the building actually does matter,” said Stoner. “He used to be one of those guys who would do it and then beg for forgiveness afterward. Now he’s been very good. We discuss it. We talk about how much.” For now, Jones is looking forward to the fair. He’ll compete Thursday with his dahlias and Friday with roses. Saturday’s competition is devoted to daylilies. All of the contests will be held in the Grange building with judging at noon. “I think one of the reasons they have the dahlia category this year is because of him, because he prompted their interest (last year),” said Stoner. “A few others said well, we have them, too, and all of a sudden the interest grew. So there’s a whole dahlia category this year.” Roettger said her father has always enjoyed the fair. Since the family lived in Mount Victory, they usually attended the Hardin County Fair in Kenton. “They always had a season pass,” she said. “We grew up at the fair.” Jones will have a cheering section at the Hancock County Fair, according to Stoner. Some of the other Sunrise residents will be going on the days he’s scheduled to compete. “We try to get as many that want to go to go,” Stoner said. “And now we have somebody to root for on top of it.” Roettger said her father plans to compete at the Hardin County Fair, too. “This has just been a great thing for us,” said Stoner. “He enjoys it, but we’re the benefactors. The residents are the benefactors. Sunrise is the benefactor. He does all this for us.” Wolf: 419-427-8419 Send an E-mail to Jeannie Wolf

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